Why B.Juris?

Now that I’ve finished my Law degree, I thought I’d just pen down why I ended up picking the B.Juris programme offered by University of Malaya over the ones offered at a number of different private colleges in Malaysia.

When I first decided to study Law, I went shopping for a suitable programme to pursue. Everyone knows about the University of London external LL.B offered at a number of colleges. So, I paid one of them a visit. I was promptly sent to the marketing department where I spoke to one of the marketing officers who explained to me the programme entry requirements, structure and fees.

I told the marketing officer that I already had a PhD and that I was merely doing Law for the knowledge. So, he pointed at the shiny library which was situated behind me and told me that it would not be necessary for me to read any of the books in there at all to pass my degree.

Unfortunately for the marketing officer, he made the wrong pitch. I was actually looking forward to visiting the library and learning the Law, but he basically told me that I could pass it without ever stepping inside a library. This completely turned me off.

So, I told a Lawyer friend of mine about this experience and my friend recommended that I check out University of Malaya external B.Juris programme instead and they broke no such nonsense.

I can still remember the speech given by the Dean of the faculty during his welcoming address for new students that, a library is the most important tool for a Lawyer and that a library is to a lawyer what a lab is to a scientist. Therefore, we should all learn how to use it. This turned me on.

He went on to extol the many virtues of the UM Law library, which is the largest Law library in the country at four storeys high, housing documents from the 18th century till today. It further excited me when we were asked to actually visit the library to read some of the really old cases.

Man, I realised then that I had made the correct decision in signing up for the programme at UM.

As for the lecturers, I was fortunate enough to learn from some of the best professors in the field. Many of our lecturers were already retired or at the verge of retirement and had spent much of their lives working in their specific area. These people were really walking libraries of authorities. They each had their little eccentricities too!

During the programme itself, I realised that it was essential to learn Malaysian Law rather than English Law. While the legal skills may be the same, the specific legal principles can be completely different between the two, such as past consideration and many others.

Also, learning Malaysian Law exposed me to Syariah Law essentials as well. This helped me to further understand the problems faced by the dual legal system practiced in the country. What was a little unfortunate is that the programme did not focus much on the laws of Sabah and Sarawak.

Anyway, after going through the programme for the last few years, I have to say that I never regretted signing up for it.

Law School Ending

Last month, I found out that I had passed all my third year subjects. This means that I have effectively collected enough credit hours to pass my degree. Although the actual graduation will only be next year, my result slip states that I have passed with honours, subject to Senate approval.

On top of that, I actually did quite well in my final year law papers. I go nearly all A’s! Too bad the one C in my second year dragged down my CGPA though. However, this is not the end of my Law school journey. I am still taking classes!

I’m taking the opportunity to learn a little bit more Law, specifically an elective that I did not take previously. I had originally signed up for it last year but I had to switch electives as they didn’t offer it last year. So, I’m taking it this year instead.

Anyhow, I thought that I should say a few words about my three years in Law school.

It was a very fruitful experience. I actually think that it’s important for everyone to go to law school – even if only to learn the basics. I had learned a lot of interesting things about Malaysian law that will hopefully be useful in my life.

What’s next? I see a potential LLM in the future.

Standard Form Contracts

Recently, I had an occasion that required a service contract to be drafted. So, I asked a lawyer friend of mine how much it would cost to draft a simple legal contract and my friend informed me what it would typically cost. In my opinion, it would cost too much to do it. So, my friend suggested that I draft one myself and my friend helpfully suggest that I start with Butterworths Forms and Precedents.

So, I happily trudged down to the UM law library and looked up the documents. Lo and behold, Volume 5 turned into a goldmine. It had all sorts of Computer Contracts in it Рcontracts that are useful for most computer services companies such as mine. I was quite happy with my find, but I then realised that this was a problem with the legal industry.

Things like standard form contracts should be made open source. Everyone should have direct access to standard form contracts. Furthermore, the standard form contracts should be regularly updated as per open source principles. This allows the standard form contracts to evolve with the changing body of Law.

What made it worse was when I looked up the price of such forms and precedents. Some of these things can cost up to RM30,000!

Nobody should be charged for standard form contracts that are useful enough to address most issues in normal cases. By all means, Lawyers should charge for their services to customise the contracts but the standard ones should be made available for free.

Why?

Firstly, for most normal cases, a standard form contract would suffice and most people would benefit by having regular transactions protected by a properly structured and worded contract. This would help in any dispute as the terms are reduced to writing. This would benefit society as a whole.

Secondly, the open source standard form contracts would serve as a living document as it constitutes the wisdom of the masses. It would not be built from the sum of the experience of any individual lawyer but the sum of the experiences of all contributing lawyers. Such standard form contracts would be stronger for everyone.

Thirdly, just like open source software, customisations can be forked. This will essentially extend standard form contracts to ultimately address almost any case on the planet. If you need a contract for a specific scenario, you should be able to find one from the myriad forks available.

Eventually, it would all benefit the legal fraternity as a whole.